Mediterranean Diet: What Is It? How To Follow It?

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Diet, although it has a bad reputation in the world of nutrition, is simply an eating style or the sum of food consumed by a person. While some diet patterns focus on weight gain or loss, others approach different health sections. One classic and modern diet pattern is the ‘Mediterranean Diet.’ This time-tested approach to eating nourishes the body while tantalizing the taste buds.

Continue reading to learn more about Mediterranean Diet, its benefits, menu, recipes, and more.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

Celebrated for its numerous health benefits, the Mediterranean Diet is a dietary lifestyle or the rich culinary traditions inspired by the Mediterranean region. Although it revolves around the world it primarily focuses on the coastal regions of Spain, Greece, and Italy.

What is the Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean approach to eating emphasizes consuming whole, non-processed foods. It includes a plant-heavy diet with lean protein from poultry and fish. Mediterranean culinary choices aren’t mainly a diet but a way of eating healthy, well-balanced, and nutritious meals.

The word ‘Diet’ may trick individuals in a very different sense; however, incorporating the word ‘Mediterranean’ changes the meaning completely.

Mediterranean Diet: how do you follow it?

Following the Mediterranean diet means embracing a holistic approach centered around nutrition-rich, wholesome food items. Here’s a simplified guide about following this dietary lifestyle.”

  • Plan your base meal on Plant Food: Your plate should contain fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
  • Incorporate Healthy Fats: For fats and fatty acids, include seeds, nuts, and fatty fish into your diet. Also, use Olive oil as the primary fat source in your food.
  • Consume Lean Protein: Your daily diet must include fish and seafood. Moderate your consumption of dairy, eggs, and poultry while completely cutting down on red meat.
  • Enjoy Dairy (but in moderation): Incorporate cheese and yogurt in your diet, though in a moderate amount.
    Use Herbs and Spices: Add different herbs and species to your daily diet to enhance the taste of the food while reducing the need for excess salt.
  • Consume Wine occasionally: Switch your alcohol-drinking habits to wine consumption sometimes.
  • Incorporate Regular Physical Exercise: Combine a healthy eating pattern with regular physical activities in any exercise routine.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water, green tea, herbal tea, etc.
  • Cut down on Processed Food: Limit your consumption of packed and processed food and replace them with whole, plant-based, fresh food options.
  • Appreciate Food: Do not just enjoy but appreciate food, its flavors, and the social aspect of dining.

Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Following the Mediterranean eating style offers a range of health benefits in the long term. Some of the common benefits involve:

  • Whole, nutrition-dense food supports weight management/ maintenance.
  • The Omega-3 fatty acids from fish and nuts and monosaturated fats from olive oil reduce the risk of heart disease and promote cardiovascular health.
  • Regular consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids also reduces the risk of cognitive decline while improving overall cognitive function.
  • Incorporating vegetables, fruits, and more antioxidant-rich food lowers the risk of different types of cancers.
  • Following a Mediterranean diet may also help manage insulin levels in the blood, benefiting individuals with a risk of Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Adding olive oil, fatty fish, and other anti-inflammatory components to the regular diet may lower the risks of chronic inflammatory diseases.
  • Food items, including dairy and leafy greens, promote bone health and may reduce osteoporosis risk.
  • Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains comprise a high-fiber diet, resulting in improved digestion and minimized risks of gastrointestinal conditions.
  • Some studies associate the Mediterranean diet with a lower risk of age-related diseases and longer life expectancy.
  • Lastly, the Mediterranean diet is simple and yet not restrictive, which makes it adaptable and sustainable at the same time.

Sample Mediterranean Diet Menu and Recipes

Sample Diet Menu:

Breakfast: Whole grain toast with avocado or Greek yogurt mixed with honey and berries.

Lunch: Green chicken salad or chickpea salad mixed with vegetables, leafy greens, herbs, olives, feta cheese with whole-grain pita bread.

Snacks: Any fruit with a handful of almonds or walnuts.

Dinner: Roasted vegetables, mixed vegetable fried (brown) rice, baked/ grilled salmon with olive oil, and lemon dressing.

Mediterranean Diet Recipes:

Some of the common Mediterranean diet recipes include the following:

  1. Quinoa Salad: Boil Quinoa and mix it with finely diced vegetables and feta cheese with a dressing of olive oil, lemon, and herbs.
  2. Baked Vegetables: Roughly chop cherry tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, and bell peppers tossed (in a pan or oven) in olive oil, garlic, and herbs.
  3. Chickpea Bowl: Mix boiled chickpeas with cucumber, red onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese and season it with olive oil, lemon, black pepper, and herbs.
  4. Chicken Souvlaki: Marinate chicken (or fish) in olive oil, black pepper, lemon juice, salt, and herbs. Grill or bake it until nicely cooked and serve hot with a green salad.

Food to eat

  • Fruits and vegetables include leafy greens, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, berries, apples, and more.
  • Healthy Fats include dry fruits, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, and olive oil.
  • Whole grains include brown rice, millet, quinoa, etc.
  • Lean protein includes seafood, legumes, poultry, fish, and red meat (occasionally).
  • Dairy, including cheese and Greek yogurt (in moderation).
  • Herbs and species include garlic, thyme, basil, rosemary, oregano, etc.

Food to Limit

  • Red meat and processed meat.
  • Packed and processed food items.
  • Refined grains.
  • Added sugar (refined)
  • Excess use of salt.

Conclusion

The Mediterranean diet is a wholesome and flavorful approach to eating. This eating style combines a rich tapestry of nutrition-dense food that provides health benefits and satisfies the taste buds. In association with physical activities, a Mediterranean diet can lead to numerous benefits, including weight management, improved heart health, and longevity. Anyone seeking a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle must approach this compelling diet choice.

Remember, the Mediterranean diet isn’t just about food choices; it is the way to healthy living.

References

  • Davis C., Bryan J., Hodgson J., Murphy K. Definition of the Mediterranean diet; a literature review. Nutrients. 2015;7:9139–9153. doi: 10.3390/nu7115459. [PMC free article]
  • Trichopoulou A., Lagiou P. Healthy Traditional Mediterranean Diet: An Expression of Culture, History, and Lifestyle. Nutr. Rev. 1997;55:383–389. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.1997.tb01578.x. [PubMed]

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Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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